An Interview with Rafael Leitao!!

1.       You are also a very strong correspondence player. What are the basic differences between an OTB game and a Correspondence game?

A:  In correspondence chess the most important is to have good positional understanding, in order to guide the computer analysis. OTB the most important is to have a good repertoire (and good memory) and calculate variations with accuracy. Also, in correspondence chess you should search for the truth, while OTB you should be practical.

2.       It is said that correspondence play increases the strength of a chess player, do you agree with this; can you comment?

A:  Correspondence chess trains the chessplayer in a very important ability: the search for the truth. This can be very helpful for a professional player, mainly in his work on openings. However, correspondence chessplayers should remember that in OTB you should see many moves ahead, and this ability is usually untrained.

3.       What can you prescribe to an average player who wants to be a strong world class player like you?

A: You should always train your calculation powers and think with your own head.
And work a lot!

4.       The previous world chess championship was decided by a blitz game. Do you think an addition of one or  more correspondence games to the World Championship schedule would be  a positive move?

A:  I don`t think so. OTB and Correspondence Chess are different and I don`t think they should be mixed.

GM (FIDE & ICCF) Rafael Leitao

5.       What is the level of an OTB game in comparison with a Correspondence game?

A: Certainly Correspondence Chess games have fewer mistakes, so they should be always observed especially when preparing an opening. However, OTB chess has a sort of drama which is missing in correspondence. Both have their own kind of beauty, though objectively correspondence games have a higher level.

6.       We make affordable special professional databases like the Sokolsky opening, King's Indian Attack, The Trompowsky opening etc. What are your  favorite openings?  Do you think when playing correspondence chess a different opening choice should be made?

A:  I like to play the Sicilian, Nimzo and 1.d4. In correspondence you an basically choose whatever opening you like, since you have time to work on it, as well as a database to be consulted. But the choice must be restricted to classical openings. Offbeat systems have no future in correspondence chess.

7.       How do you think a player should  use such databases effectively? ,

A: I like to search for all high level games in a given system first, so I can get a feel on it. Then I start analysing more deeply and use the openings tree, so I can know exactly all the moves that were played in a given line.

8.       Can you analyse one of your favourite correspondence  games for us? If possible in PGN format.

9.       What rating would  Houdini engine achieve in ICCF without any human intervention?

A: I don`t know, but he would have a rating anyway. By the way, many players only play the computer suggestion, without interacting. This limits their playing potential.

1-  Under what circumstances human intervention affects the outcome of a correspondence game?

A: In some cases a human evaluation can be very important, especially in attacking positions. Computers have no feel for danger and sometimes their evaluation is way out of the mark.

1-   How much do you benefit from chess engines in your correspondence games?

A: I always use them, but I do not follow them blindly.

1 According to you which engine is the best engine?
A: Houdini 3 Pro

1 What other software do you use?
A: ChessBase 12 and Fritz 13 interface, along with other engines.

1-   How long do you think chess will last under the impact of technological developments? Do you think the computers will solve all chess probabilities and tell the result of a game beforehand?
A: This will be impossible for many years to come. It will happen at some point, but we will find ways to keep chess interesting, maybe with some small changes in the rules.

1-  In the advent of such probability will there be any meaning left to chess , may it be correspondence or OTB?
A: Surely correspondence chess suffers with the computers advance, but OTB will always have meaning. It`s impossible to remember computer lines for all the possibilities, to say the least.

1-  Have you ever been hired to improve a chess engine or would you like to take up such a job?
A: No, never received such an offer. I am more interested in improving my professional results and develop as a chess trainer.

1- What are your long term goals? Would you like to be the FIDE and the ICCF World champion at the same time?
A:  I want t o improve my OTB play. Correspondence Chess in not my focus, I only do it for fun.

1- What can you tell us about the 26th ICCF World Championship. What were the crucial moments ; for example you didn't lose a single game and became third, can you comment a little further?

A: I was surprised by my good result. I just played some classical setups and never followed the computer blindly. My positional understanding helped me to achieve a good result.

  -  And now for our last question, you were in The Turkish Republic during the  Olympics what was your impressions about our country?
A: I have been 3 times to Turkey already. I really like the country and feel at home there. I wish I can return!
Thank you  very much for your kind cooperation. We wish you good luck and much success.

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